Have you thought about your position?

Coming from a wealthy and privileged background gives some a massive advantage over others, due to a variety of factors. 

The 6% of people who come from the elite group (as defined by the Great British Class Survey) have a much greater chance of becoming financially successful and take on leadership positions -regardless of educational attainment.  This results from a variety of factors, such as elite education, travel abroad, ability to provide rich cultural experiences and parental networks and support.  For the next socio-economic grouping (‘established middle class’, 25% of UK population), a university degree is the norm and considered the way to attain and maintain wealth and income. This group can use their money to provide rich cultural experiences,  parental support and access different education.   

 You might never have thought about your place in the socio-economic spectrum before coming to university.  This is true whichever socio-economic group you come from.  Because of the different education systems in the UK (and in your country of origin, if you are an international student), it’s likely that you will have attended a school with people of a similar socio-economic class and your family and friendship groups were socio-economically like yours.   

At the University of Edinburgh, we believe that all capable young people deserve an excellent Higher Education regardless of their socio-economic background.  We recognise that people from lower socio-economic groups often don’t have the same level of support and encouragement to go to university despite being extremely academically capable, so we have taken measures to ensure that they also get a fair chance to be accepted.  This is often known as ‘Widening Participation’.   

At the University of Edinburgh, students who come from middle to lower socio-economic backgrounds are in a minority.  However, in the wider UK society, they are the majority. When we asked our widening participation students, we found that they were often unprepared for the experience of being ‘othered’ because of their background, leading to a strong sense that they did not ‘belong’ at the University. This is a different experience from people with protected characteristics, such as race, disability and LGBTQ+ who have already experienced prejudice and discrimination, and while disappointing to encounter it at university, the experience is not new.   

This video illustrates examples of privilege and/or exclusion based on participants backgrounds and experience.  This not only highlights social-economic disadvantage but illustrates Intersectionality.  An interesting way of reflecting on your own experience.   


I guess I knew I was working class but I’m not sure how much it was really present to me when I was living at home.  Like so many people I know from home, it was only going to uni that made us realise how working class we are.  It’s so weird being isolated, surrounded by middle class and privileged people.  Now I just assume I’m going to be surrounded by people who are better off than me.